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The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,475 ratings  ·  182 reviews
From the premiere New York Times Washington correspondent, a stunning and incisive look into how cyberwarfare is influencing elections, threatening national security, and bringing us to the brink of global war.

Behind the Russian cyberattacks that may have thrown the 2016 election; behind the Sony hack; behind mysterious power outages around the world and the
Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published June 19th 2018 by Crown
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Clif Hostetler
This book consists largely of the retelling of cyber attack incidents that have previously been in the news over the past ten years. However, the retelling in this book at this time has the advantage of hindsight which provides the enabling perspective regarding background, motive and attribution that were largely uncertain when the stories were first reported. Additionally, encompassing all these stories into one book at this time allows the pondering of their ramifications on privacy, crime, ...more
Brandon Forsyth
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Sanger is simply the best writer alive working on issues of global and American security, and his latest book proves how far ahead he is of everyone else in his field. His meticulous reporting and cogent analysis of where cyber warfare is headed makes an urgent argument for international standards (a "digital Geneva Convention" is mentioned) to be discussed and adopted with haste. From the Iranian centrifuge sabotage to Russian hacking of Ukrainian power systems and American election ...more
Oct 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Philip Graham is credited with calling journalism "the first rough draft of history." The author of The Perfect Weapon, David E Sanger, one of the highly respected journalists for the New York Times, called his book "current history." I am going with a 'polished second draft of history.'

As a daily reader of The Times I already had some familiarity with the topics covered in Mr. Sanger's book. However, that reading did not prepare me for what I learned from the depth of research and clarity of
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent and terrifying read. The Russians and Chinese and North Koreans are in the house and it seems that this administration is not at all aware of the magnitude of the threat. Sanger has a lot of access and a depth of knowledge on the issues and this history. He's also an excellent writer. I do have some critiques--he seems to think that the olympic games project where the US and Israel hacked into the Iranian computer networks was completely justified (though he worries about ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, technology, usa
66th book for 2018.

Nice summary of current situation around cyberwar from an American perspective. This is a scary world where large state players (China and Russia, but also North Korea and Iran) are increasingly intruding (attacking?) US targets. The US is largely unprotected from a cyberattack, which could take down power, water etc. relatively easily. Having read this it's really unclear how secure US voting systems are from an attack during 2018 election cycle.

Well worth a read. A nice
Sep 13, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great review of the political and cyber landscape over the past decade or so. Not much new information if you have been following along , but really well condensed into a single source which gives things broader context.
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TL/DR: Must Read. Very scary. We're screwed. Kill your social media accounts. Abandon technology. Start a homestead. Cynics are on to something.

Full Review:

The threat of Nuclear Weapons and rise of Global Warming have occupied the top spot in the list of humanity's gravest concerns for as long as I can remember, and rightly so. We have arrived at the point in our times where just a few players controlling history's deadliest arsenal can hit the reset button and send us all back to an age when
Mal Warwick
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Russia and China have penetrated so deeply into the electronic systems that sustain the American economy that either country might be able to set us back two or three decades using cyber weapons. North Korea and Iran appear to be not far behind. What seems to be stopping them all is the equal or greater ability of the United States to do the same or worse to them—not to mention the chance we might reduce their countries to cinders with nuclear weapons. That's the message at the heart of David E. ...more
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How to the laws of war apply to cyber? That is the question. Why not just manipulate North Korea's missile launches software prior to launch and thereby plunging them into the sea shortly after takeoff? Well, that would amount to preemptive war in violation of international law. So when Sanger seeks information about those failures at the Pentagon, he's met with stony silence. Yet cyber manipulation has happened before, namely when the U.S. and Israel caused Iran's nuclear centrifuges to whirl ...more
Rick Presley
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If any book deserves the sobriquet, "If you're not outraged, then you're not paying attention," this one does. It is the compilation of fairly recent news items on the subject of cyber warfare. What was reported at the time it happened as nearly random, but intentional acts of computer sabotage have proven to be part of a grand strategy on the world stage of state actors to engage in warfare that puts everyone at risk. In essence, there is little if anything in this book that is new, but by ...more
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age, New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger talks about nations’ pervasive and growing uses of spyware and malware to achieve their ends. According to Paul Pillar’s review in the Times, Sanger’s book is “an encyclopedic account of policy-relevant happenings in the cyberworld (that) stays firmly grounded in real events.”
It’s not a question of keeping the stuff out of our electric grid, the controls of our nuclear
Jeff Hexter
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Excellent overview of the current state of cyberwarfare (and wow, this stuff is real and ongoing). I'd heard discussions of all of the hacking mentioned in this book, but never with the political issues, only the technological issues. This added a new dimension for me.

And it is pretty terrifying.
Budd Margolis
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in spurts between other books because each part really required some considered thought. The Cyber Warfare issue is incredibly vital to our entire society, economy & commerce and security and the West is under attack. We are not doing enough but understanding what is going on as well a what is at stake is not just important, it is vital if we are to progress. Great book!
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age by David E. Sanger

“The Perfect Weapon” is an interesting look at the political implications of cyberwarfare. National security correspondent for the New York Times, David E. Sanger takes the public on a historical ride into the world of cyberweapons and how it has transformed geopolitics. This enlightening 354-page book includes the following twelve chapters: 1. Original Sins, 2. Pandora’s Inbox, 3. The Hundred-Dollar Takedown, 4. Man
Scribe Publications
In a chilling new book, The Perfect Weapon, David Sanger details how more than 30 nations have developed effective cyber forces.
Financial Times

[Sanger] writes with persuasiveness and authority.
The Telegraph

[Sanger is] a shrewd and insightful strategic thinker.
New York Times

An encyclopedic account of policy-relevant happenings in the cyberworld … the most comprehensive, readable source of information and insight about the policy quandaries that modern information technology and its
Evin Ashley
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding research, pacing of content, and articulate analyses - Sanger's book should be widely read by every American, and I emphasize American, as we grapple with our identity in the context of a global society.

I 100% agree with the NYT (to which Sanger is a contributing journalist), which stated The Perfect Weapon is "the product of extraordinarily diligent reporting...devastatingly effective."

My blood pressure rose reading about the Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A couple things I liked about this book: getting a better understanding of where cybersecurity/defence/offence fits into the world of geopolitics, understanding how cyber fits into the "stack" of modern warfare, how fast the cyber arms race is moving, and how particularly vulnerable (North) America is as we focus on innovation and leave security as an afterthought.

The geopolitics are so complicated: if a nation-state cyber-attacks you, are you justified in a physical retaliation? What is off
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-written book on a very specific topic from a one-sided point of view with an unfortunate audiobook narrator.

That summary above is the response I'd give if anyone asked me what I think of the book. The two-star rating might seem a bit harsh, but I couldn't really justify anything higher from my perspective since I already knew the broad strokes of all the events the book covered. The details of those events were somewhat interesting, but I really didn't need 400 pages to satisfy
William Schram
In The Perfect Weapon, author David E Sanger does an excellent job of terrifying me. With America’s Allies and Enemies having Cyber weapons and attack capabilities, you would think that the leadership of America would have some kind of plan or something. Apparently, they do not have anything of the kind. Our weapons of mass destruction are aging at a steady rate, the launch computers are apparently using Floppy Disc Drives, and the people in charge of reacting to the threats are sitting on their ...more
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, reviewed
4.5 stars, rounding up. Sanger is one of the country's finest journalists on all issues cyber, and this book is frequently gripping and fascinating. It provides an in-depth look at a number of cyber incidents (including Olympic Games, which destroyed a number of the Iranian nuclear program's centrifuges).

But perhaps more importantly, Sanger pushes us hard to grapple with the need for an emerging framework of norms and laws around the use of cyberwarfare and warns (effectively, in my view)
Garry Geer
The author gives a truncated history of cyber-warfare over the last 20 years. I find it incredibly eye-opening especially at a lot of the relevant stories had flown under my radar (which is his point sometimes). On an interesting side note, I find his struggle to decide what and what not to publish an interesting story in and of itself. I don't know what to think about the press's (sp) role in these events.
He does address the role of Russian interference in the 2016 election, but I think he
Tom Oman
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing and unsettling book. It feels like the first light shed on a new phenomenon that is going to transform everything about international relations and the nature of what it means for a state to be sovereign and the definition of conflict and war. It’s a lot to deal with, and this book is just the first glimpse. There is no doubt that this will have resounding implications which are difficult to comprehend or fully imagine until things play themselves out. Highly recommended ...more
Sean Lynn
In The Perfect Weapon by New York Times reporter and author, David E. Sanger, describes the ambiguous nature of cyber warfare. He chronicles the major cyber offensives by the worlds most digitally combative countries, the United States, China, Russia, and North Korea, while exploring the difficulties in detecting, defending against, and even classifying different kinds of cyber threats. If you are interested in knowing the capabilities and liabilities of cyber warfare, The Perfect Weapon is an ...more
Bruce Katz
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
a serious and comprehensive look at cyber-warfare and the weaponization of social media: how they evolved, who the key actors are, the complicated legal and strategic questions surrounding them, the disputes among agencies, and much more. eye-opening, sobering, and even-handed in apportioning responsibility and, yes, blame. it deserves a wide readership... and a far more thoughtful review than i am capable of giving.
Ahmed Chowdhry
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a healthy dose of reality documenting the cyber war that is currently being waged by Russian, Chinese, and North Korean state sponsored hackers on us. Russian disruption of power in the Ukraine, the North Korean hack of Sony, Russian fake ads on Facebook, the US cyber attack of Iranian nuclear facilities, and the Wannacry virus are all well documented.

This book goes to show where the future of battle is going. Cyber will be an important realm of any kind of conflict.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Assuming that he got his facts straight (at least to the point that he could discern what is going on through the fog of over-classification), Sanger has laid out perhaps the best overview of where we are in the cyber warfare(struggle?) realm. Both Trump and Obama take some lumps, although I think he was a bit too kind to Clapper and Comey and a couple other alphabet soup characters. Very lucid throughout.
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I ordered this book from the library after hearing the author speak at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Sanger draws on his reporting on national security for the New York Times to describe the ways cyber has already been used as well as to warn of the grave future damage this potentially devastating weaponry could inflict on citizens worldwide.
Blake Meredith
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sanger makes a persuasive the case for taking cyber warfare more seriously. Cyber warfare is here, and our reluctance to take such threats as seriously as we take kinetic threats (missiles, guns, bombs) has cost us politically and economically.

Read this book for a detailed analysis of US cybersecurity foreign policy during the Obama administration, and for granular details of how foreign actors have compromised our electric grid, our financial institutions, and our elections.
Rachel Brown
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought a book about cybersecurity and cyberattacks would be dull and hard to follow, but luckily I was wrong. This is a fascinating, compelling, terrifying look at the world we live in. Very well written
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very well written, timely, informative, no-frills account of cyber weaponry and warfare from a decidedly US perspective.
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“I mean, there are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese. —James Comey, then FBI director, October 5, 2014” 1 likes
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